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University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill Confederate Monument Relocation Plan Sparks Protest

Above: Several hundred demonstrators face off with police at a barricade around the boarded up base of the Silent Sam Confederate statue at UNC-Chapel Hill on Monday night.Photo: Travis Long, Raleigh News & Observer.
Above: Several hundred demonstrators face off with police at a barricade around the boarded up base of the Silent Sam Confederate statue at UNC-Chapel Hill on Monday night.Photo: Travis Long, Raleigh News & Observer.

CHAPEL HILL, NORTH CAROLINA—Hundreds of students and faculty members gathered Monday evening, December 3, to protest the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill’s plan to relocate a Confederate monument to a new building dedicated to its preservation as an artifact. The statue, known as “Silent Sam,” was toppled in an August protest and subsequently removed from a prominent location on the UNC campus. In October 2018, Maya Little, a doctoral student in history at the university, was charged with a misdemeanor for defacing the statue with red paint in an April 2018 protest of its white-supremacist association.

The statue was donated to the university in 1913 and was dedicated to UNC students who fought for the Confederacy during the American Civil War. A North Carolina law passed in 2015 forbids the removal of “objects of historical remembrance” from state-owned land, Jane Stancill and Tammy Grubb report for the Raleigh News & Observer.

The proposed research and study center is intended as a workaround of the 2015 law. Located at the edge of campus, the building is expected to cost $5.3 million to construct and $800,000 annually to operate, funds many in the Chapel Hill community say could be used for more worthwhile causes like alleviating student hunger or increasing faculty wages.

Others noted that the university would effectively be building a new monument to white supremacy. “How are we going to negotiate that?” Cary Levine, professor of art, said. “We’re going to be back at square one. Do you think the people that marched on campus with Confederate flags are going to be happy with the full contextualization that we’re planning? It just seems like we’re just going to have another battle when it comes to how we’re presenting this object.”

Monday evening’s protest was met with heavy police presence, including some in riot gear, and resulted in one arrest. Protesters called for a graduate student strike and a halt on grading the fall semester’s final exams. The university board of governors will vote on the proposal on Friday, December 14.

December 4, 2018